Mahatma Gandhi once said, “To my mind, the life of a lamb is no less precious than that of a human being. The more helpless the creature, the more that it is entitled to protection by man from the cruelty of man.”
Major religions around the world believe, to varying degrees, that animals should be treated with compassion and respect. In the countries and cultures where these religions are practiced, and animals are to be treated with respect. However animals are still used as a food source and sacrificed for religious purposes.
The Mahayana scriptures portray the Buddha as requiring his followers to be strict vegetarians (in today’s sense it would be vegan) in all circumstances. In the Lankavatara Sutra, the Buddha is quoted as saying, “I have not permitted meat eating by anyone. I do not permit it. I will not permit it.” In this same scripture, he gives the reason, “If meat is not eaten by anybody for any reason, there will be no destroyer of life.”
The traditional understanding of the First Precept, Do not kill, is not restricted to its literal
meaning. Peter Harvey, a Buddhist scholar and ethicist at the University of Sunderland in the
UK, points out that, “Each precept has a positive counterpart.” And American Buddhist scholar
at the University of Virginia, and former translator for His Holiness the Dalai Lama, Robert
Thurman, tell us that “Not merely not killing, but preserving lives is the first of Buddhism’s
Christianity and animal rights relationships aren’t as complicated as it may seem. Many Christians believe that God created the Earth and all living things, and that therefore the whole of Creation ultimately belongs to God: “To the Lord belongs the earth, and everything in it.” – Psalm 24:1
In Genesis 1:29-30 it is established, “Behold, I have given you every plant yielding seed that is on the face of all the earth, and every tree with seed in its fruit. You shall have them for food. And to every beast of the earth and to every bird of the heavens and to everything that creeps on the earth, everything that has the breath of life, I have given every green plant for food.”
Hindus believe that according to the principle of ahimsa, no living thing should be harmed. This applies to humans and animals.
It is clearly stated in Yajurveda 13:47, “No person should kill animals helpful to all. Rather, by serving them, one should attain happiness.”
In Mahabharata it is mentioned that humans were not created to dominate other forms of life but have evolved from these forms and are therefore part of the whole of creation.
“If there were nobody who ate meat there would then be nobody who kills living creatures. The person who kills living creatures kills them for the sake of the people who eat meat.” – Mahabharata 13:115
Islam has always viewed animals as a special part of God’s creation. Mankind is responsible for whatever it has at its disposal, including animals whose rights must be respected. The Holy Quran, the Hadith, and the history of Islamic civilization offer many examples of kindness, mercy, and compassion for animals.
Prophet Muhammad encourage Muslims in Hadith to show kindness and compassion towards animals and birds, and repeatedly forbade cruelty towards animals.
“Whoever is merciful even to a sparrow, Allah will be merciful to him on the Day of Judgment.”
“A good deed done to an animal is like a good deed done to a human being, while an act of cruelty to an animal is as bad as cruelty to a human being.”
Ahimsa in Jainism is a fundamental principle forming the cornerstone of its ethics and doctrine. The term ahinsa means nonviolence, non-injury and absence of desire to harm any life forms. Vegetarianism and other nonviolent practices and rituals of Jains flow from the principle of ahimsa.
Acaranga sutra – “The Arhats and Bhagavats of the past, present, and future, all say thus, speak thus, declare thus, explain thus: all breathing, existing, living, sentient creatures should not be slain, nor treated with violence, nor abused, nor tormented, nor driven away.”
Sutrakritanga Sutra – “All beings hate pains; therefore one should not kill them. This is the quintessence of wisdom: not to kill anything.”
Sikhs believe that humans and the rest of the world of nature have a great deal in common. God created everything. Therefore, animals are important and valuable. Sikhs do not believe that animals should be worshipped but they should be respected as a part of God’s creation.
Sikh Faith Statement 2003 – “The world, like all creation, is a manifestation of God. Every creature in this world, every plant, every form is a manifestation of the Creator. Each is part of God and God is within each element of creation. God is the cause of all and He is the primary connection between all existence.”
In conclusion, religion is all about beliefs – beliefs about creation, purpose, destiny, life, and love. What people believe or disbelieve about God and the world affects all aspects of their being,
including their day-to-day behaviour. The animal rights movement is about changing and shaping people’s belief systems about animals. Religion can affect attitudes towards animals, and the way in which animals are treated, either positively or negatively.
Religion can be important to the animal protection movement in different ways: –
- It can be used in support of the animal protection cause. This can be particularly useful and powerful in countries where religion is important and influential.
- Religion is sometimes used to justify cruel treatment – and even sacrifices – of animals. Some animal protectionists fight against these cruelties carried out in the name of religion.